Propecia Lawsuit Claims Hair Loss Drug Caused Sexual Dysfunction

Hair growth medication finasteride, marketed by Merck as <"">Propecia, for male pattern baldness is being blamed for persistent sexual dysfunction, according to nine men, who say that the dysfunction remained even after they stopped taking the drug, wrote Courthouse News.

Merck touts Propecia as presenting “a safe treatment with little risk,” for thinning hair, but these men, who have filed a lawsuit against the drug maker, disagree, wrote Courthouse News, citing court documents. The nine plaintiffs come from seven states and the District of Columbia, and say finasteride “prevents the conversion of androgen testosterone to DHT (dihydrotestosterone) in the scalp, leading to a reduction of hair loss,” and that Merck “knew or should have known that DHT is a hormone critical to male sexual performance and functioning,” quoted Courthouse News.

According to the Propecia label, use of the treatment can lead to “sexual dysfunction such as decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, ejaculation disorder, and decreased ejaculate volume,” which the plaintiffs acknowledge, quoted Courthouse News. But, just late last year, the label stated that “resolution of these adverse reactions occurred in men who discontinued therapy with Propecia and in most who continued therapy,” said the complaint, which quoted from Merck materials.

We recently wrote that a study released in the Journal of Sexual Medicine indicated that GlaxoSmithKline (which markets Proscar) and Merck reported that up to eight percent of patients taking finasteride reported adverse sexual events. According to a review study published in the Journal in 2008, that range can reach 38 percent depending on dose and length of time medications were taken. Although generally used to treat male baldness—androgenetic alopecia—Proscar is also prescribed for the more serious medical issues of enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia.

The plaintiffs said that following a 2006 probe by the Swedish Medical Products Agency “investigating reports of persistent sexual dysfunction side effects which continue in men despite discontinuing finasteride,” Merck changed Propecia’s label in Sweden, Italy, and the United Kingdom to include: “Persistence of erectile dysfunction after discontinuation of treatment” as a side effect, quoted Courthouse News. In the United States, Merck revised Propecia’s labeling last year with no “updated warning regarding the persistence of sexual dysfunction,” said the plaintiffs, quoted Courthouse News.

The claim also says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received many reports concerning sexual dysfunction from Propecia, and that many American and European physicians have “publicly expressed concerns about patients who have permanent sexual, mental, and physical side effects after discontinuing finasteride.”

We previously explained that doctors have been aware of impotence and other sexual problems linked to Propecia and that finasteride lowers testosterone conversion to dihydrotestosterone, which is a stronger hormone connected to loss of hair. Also known is that medicines that interfere with testosterone could affect sexual performance.

The complaint also states that a physician at Michigan’s men’s health clinic said, “I am just totally against finasteride. I have had so many patients [that] have come to me where that medication has destroyed their life. … They take finasteride for even as short as a week and it destroys their lives. And they become depressed, weak, impotent and the problem is when they go off the drug their symptoms remain,” quoted Courthouse News. In this action, the nine men seek “punitive damages for negligence, product liability, and breach of warranty,” said Courthouse News.

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